First off, gentle reader, some news:

No Monsters on this last Sunday. Life got in the way, as it occasionally does. But Erin and I will be back with the next chapter soon.

Instead, I'm giving you my new solo project. I'm running on the same rules as Monsters here; I'm writing as I go, and it's basically the first draft. I have a pretty thorough road map and it's not going to be as long as Monsters, but I hope you'll enjoy it. And it's going to be really, really easy for me to post all kinds of extras whenever the mood strikes me.

Without further ado, I present The Way Station.

Winter wore off slowly in the northern wasteland. The lingering harsh chill of the ground leeched through her sturdy, insulated gloves as Lucky crept with infinite care over a high pile of rubble that had once been a narrow brick house.

Radio SR2 played a barely audible but reassuring sound of voices and static in her ear. It made the noise of tearing flesh on the other side of the ruined house more bearable. Gory sights didn’t make her squeamish.  She had never once fainted at the sight of blood.  But sometimes sounds did bring on an unexpected bout of nausea, and her stomach gave an acid role at the sudden sharp crack that could only be a breaking bone.

She hoped the noises came from an animal. Even a mutant would be better than a feral. Most animals, even the mutated ones, wouldn’t bother with her if they already had a good meal. Animals that managed to survive in the wasteland survived like big predatory cats. They ate, slept, only used hard-earned energy in the kill. The same rule didn’t necessarily apply to the ferals. Anything with even a drop of human left in it might chase her and she would have to kill it. She was confident that she could - she had been killing since she was still just a kid - but she was low on bullets and there was no guarantee she would find any at the next way station.

WS Delta is closed pending a murder investigation,” the tiny voice in her right ear reported. “Travelers will be offered sanctuary in a temporary structure outside the compound, and are limited to an eight hour stay.”

Well, crap, she thought irritably. Guess I’m skipping Delta.

Volunteers from Way Stations Charlie and Echo will staff the temporary lodgings. In other news, a pack of ferals has been spotted near WS Tango. It is believed that they lived in the tunnels beneath the ruined city in Tango Zone 7, and were released when independent scavengers-”

Lucky muted her headset. She was too close to the nausea-inducing noise and Tango was too far away to be of any importance. The information about WS Delta was solid, though. She had planned to be there in a few days, but plans were made to be broken.  She would give it a miss and go straight to WS Echo after her stop at WS Charlie.

She was almost near the top of the rubble pile. Just a little further, she thought. You’re doing good. Keep quiet a little longer.

A shard of glass crunched beneath her hand, breaking across the sounds below.

You fucking moron, she thought, and froze.

The noise below stopped.

The moment held.

Lucky held her breath.

And as abruptly as it stopped, the noise of eating started up again with a tear and crack of flesh and bones, and then a wet slurp. She imagined a feralsucking the marrow from the bones as if through a straw and immediately banished the thought. She wasn’t sure it worked that way, anyway, and she had work to do.

Lucky released her held breath slowly and silently, and peered over the top of the rubble.

The great, monstrous lizard thing spread out below. It was at least ten feet from its narrow head to the tip of its tail, and its mouth was lined with cruel, sharp, yellowed teeth. Its smooth brown scales glinted faintly red in the dying light.

Lucky breathed a sigh of relief. There was always a chance it would leave its meal for her, but she doubted it. It was still a bit cold for lizards. It would have only just come out of a long winter’s nap, and it would go back to napping until the wasteland started to heat up again. It would be hungry but sluggish. Faster than a full-grown basilisk but not by much. This creature rested in wait for its victims and pounced at the last and best possible moment. It probably had a cave beneath the rubble.

She slumped against the ruin of bricks and drew in another steady breath before she started her slow, creeping climb back down.

And that’s when she saw the feral, running toward her at full tilt.

“Fuck,” she snarled, throwing all attempts at stealth to the wind. She turned and ran back over and down the rubble pile.

The lizard rolled a started amber eye up toward her and shifted protectively over its meal. Lucky didn’t think - she acted. She ran and took a flying leap halfway down the hill, over the giant reptile’s head, bringing a shower of dirt and bricks down on it.

She landed hard and rolled as the feral crested the hill. The lizard, dumb animal that it was, blamed the feral of the new coating of dirt on its mangled, barely recognizable meal, and as the feral rocketed down after her, it leapt forward, snapping powerful jaws around the semi-human thing’s middle and bearing it down to the ground in a screaming, bloody mess.

Lucky grinned. Living up to your name, she thought.

Then she was off and running.


SR2 Radio Interlude 1

...when independent scavengers entered the zone and opened the tunnels, ignoring posted warnings. WS Tango Marshal Jenner believes that none of the scavengers survived. However, he has posted bounties on the scavengers whose bodies were not found. Please contact the nearest marshal for more information.

This is an important security alert: we have received reports that WS Victor is under attack by an organized band of raiders. If there are any marshals, trained military personnel, or mercenary volunteers in the area, please respond.

In other news, legislation is slated to pass through parliament regarding an increase in SR2 and SR3 tolls in two months. Please register any comments with your local post office by the end of the month or they will not be taken into consideration.

Up next, we’ve got a new episode of Madness and Mysteries. This one is about the sightings of a strange, ship-sized creature in the Lakelands. Is it real, or is it an elaborate hoax? Stay tuned to find out.

From the western steppes to the eastern greenlands, Radio SR2 is here for you. This is Maggie42 signing off.